Friday, January 11, 2019

Passion (2012 film)

Based on the 2010 film Love Crime by Alain Corneau, Passion is the story of two women working for a multi-national corporation as they try reach for a prime position only for the competition to get dangerous. Written for the screen and directed by Brian de Palma, the film is a remake of sorts of Corneau’s film with some different interpretations as it play into two women trying to one-up themselves in a game to reach to the top. Starring Rachel McAdams, Noomi Rapace, Karoline Herfurth, Paul Anderson, Rainer Bock, and Benjamin Sadler. Passion is a gripping yet stylish film from Brian de Palma.

An advertising executive takes credit for her subordinate’s idea as she would later try and blackmail her prompting her subordinate to try and one-up her where it would eventually lead to murder. That is the film’s premise as it play into two women trying to vie for position in a multi-national advertising corporation in Berlin as it would intensify with one of them playing mind games over the other. Brian de Palma’s screenplay, which includes additional dialogue by Natalie Carter, focuses on this relationship between Christine Stanford (Rachel McAdams) and her subordinate Isabelle James (Noomi Rapace) as they’re trying to create a new ad yet Stanford would take credit for James’ idea for an ad that she created with her secretary Dani (Karoline Herfurth). Yet, Stanford is a woman that always gets what she wants as her reason to hurt James is due to the fact that James is having an affair with Stanford’s lover in a co-worker in Dirk Harriman (Paul Anderson) who is already in trouble for embezzling money from their company as he’s hoping to pay them back. Stanford’s usage of power and seduction would eventually cause James to break down and the desire to fight back.

The direction of de Palma definitely play into his stylish approach of slanted camera angles, split-screens, perspective shots, and other tricks that he is known for yet he does maintain the importance of the suspense and drama that occurs in the film. Shot on location in Berlin, de Palma avoids many of the city’s landmarks to focus on something that is more intimate in the corporate world that also include these lavish apartments that the main characters live in. There are some wide shots in the film yet de Palma emphasizes more on close-ups and medium shots to not just focus on the characters but in the environment they’re in. Even as he uses webcams and phones for footage as it would play into Stanford’s need to humiliate James in every way she can that include an office party scene that also shows footage of office workers in compromising positions.

The direction also has de Palma maintain this idea of what James might do yet she is already falling apart where she is seen using prescription pills to cope with the humiliation she endured. The usage of split-screen is a method that de Palma is known for where he gets multiple perspectives of what is going on where it focuses on a party Stanford is having as well as who is going to join for an after party while the other focus is on a ballet performance that James is watching. It is a sequence that is offbeat yet it play into the suspense of what is going to happen followed by an aftermath in the third act that is filled with the usual twists and turns over who did it. Even as it raises questions about who and why did it happen where de Palma definitely play with the tropes though it’s ending does get a little over-written towards the end. Overall, de Palma crafts a witty and exhilarating film about a corporate ad executive trying to outdo her subordinate leading to a battle for supremacy and seduction.

Cinematographer Jose Luis Alcaine does amazing work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of bright and vibrant colors for some of the scenes in the day and night along with blue filters and shades for other scenes to express the mood of the characters. Editor Francois Gediger does excellent work with the editing with its approach to rhythmic cuts for the suspense as well as playing up to the style of split-screens. Production designer Cornelia Ott, with set decorator Ute Bergk and supervising art director Astrid Poeschke, does brilliant work with the look of the offices and homes of Stanford and James as well as the restaurants and places they go to. Costume designer Karen Muller Serrau does fantastic work with the costumes with the clothes that Sanford wears including some skimpy and stylish lingerie to the black clothes that James would wear.

Special makeup effects artists Tamar Aviv, Goran Lundstrom, and Jorn Seifert do terrific work with the look of the characters including a mask that Stanford has which matches her face. Visual effects supervisor Sarah Moreau does nice work with the film’s minimal visual effects for some of the film’s set-dressing and scenes involving computers and such. Sound editor Jean Goudier does superb work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere of the offices and some of the places the characters go to. The film’s music by Pino Donaggio is incredible for its lush and eerie orchestral arrangement that play into the suspense with its usage of strings as it adds to the dramatic tension while music supervisor Elise Luguern provide a few classical pieces from Claude Debussy, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as well as contemporary pieces from Archive, Steve Dudas, and Mark Hart.

The casting by Anja Dihrberg is wonderful as it feature a few notable small roles from Jorg Pintsch as a lover of Stanford in Mark, Michael Rotschopf as James’ attorney, Polina Semionova and Ibrahim Oyku Onal as the ballet dancers, and Dominic Raacke as a corporate boss in J.J. Koch. Benjamin Sadler is terrific as a prosecutor who believes that James is a suspect involved in a murder while Rainer Bock is superb as a police inspector who is suspicious of James yet is aware that something doesn’t feel right. Paul Anderson is fantastic as Dirk Harriman as a co-worker of James and Stanford who is sleeping with both women yet is already in trouble for embezzlement that leads to him being blackmailed by Stanford. Karoline Herfurth is excellent as Dani as James’ secretary who takes part in creating the ad that James wants to present while is also aware of the mind games that Stanford is playing where she becomes protective of James.

The performances of Noomi Rapace and Rachel McAdams in their respective roles as Isabelle James and Christine Stanford are incredible as two women working for a multi-national corporation as they find themselves fighting to be on top. Rapace’s performance is definitely filled with a lot of anguish and humility as someone who feels like she’s not getting enough credit while being used. McAdams’ performance as Stanford is such a delight in how bitchy she is where she uses her sex appeal to get what she wants as well as be emotionally manipulative that has a darkly comic edge. Rapace and McAdams together are a joy to watch with Rapace being the foil and McAdams being bad as they have this amazing chemistry together as they are the highlights of the film.

Passion is a remarkable film from Brian de Palma that features great performances from Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace. Along with its gorgeous visuals, study of multi-national corporate culture, themes of seduction and humility, and Pino Donaggio’s score. It’s a film that has the kind of story that definitely has the touches expected from de Palma while being this erotic thriller of sorts that play into the tropes of the genre. In the end, Passion is a marvelous film from Brian de Palma.

Related: Love Crime

Brian de Palma Films: (Murder a la Mod) – (Greetings) – (The Wedding Party) – (Dionysus in ’69) – (Hi, Mom!) – (Get to Know Your Rabbit) – Sisters - Phantom of the ParadiseObsessionCarrie - The Fury - (Home Movies) – Dressed to Kill - Blow Out - Scarface (1983 film) - Body Double – (Wise Guys) – The Untouchables - Casualties of War - The Bonfire of the Vanities - Raising Cain - Carlito's Way - Mission: Impossible - Snake Eyes - Mission to Mars - Femme FataleThe Black Dahlia - (Redacted) – (Domino (2018 film))

© thevoid99 2019


Brittani Burnham said...

I recall this getting not so great reviews so I never saw it, but this reviews makes it sound really good! I'll have to watch eventually.

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-Brian de Palma is always polarizing where he can make some great films but also some stinkers. This is one of his better films as if you're familiar with his work. You can get an idea of where it's going and just let it flow. It maybe style over substance but it still does enough to make it an engaging and compelling suspense-thriller of sorts.